When Considering Security, Layer Your Options



Modern counterfeiters around the globe are replicating a broad range of items. Their work results in the dilution of brand reputation and value. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pharmaceutical industry, which faces major threats as bogus packaging and inferior products continue to infiltrate the marketplace.

As the industry struggles to identify the most-effective way to protect against counterfeiting and unwanted document duplication, radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology has been gaining interest and popularity, specifically for pharmaceutical packaging.

FDA believes that an electronic pedigree is the long-term solution to fulfilling Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA) requirements, but has stopped short of mandating RFID in drug packaging.

RFID offers an effective means to not only identify genuine material, but to track that material through the distribution chain as well. RFID, however, is not perfect. An RFID system consists of several vulnerable components: tags, tag readers, edge servers, middleware, and application software. The highly advanced yet fragile nature of RFID technology breeds the potential for failure.

Careful consideration should be given to supporting technology that can offer additional layers of protection in the event of damaged or faulty RFID equipment. There are several foundation-level, cost-effective security features that can be easily added to a drug package or label to complement RFID’s offerings and further ensure the safety of the protected item. Given the scenario of a power failure or a damaged tag, these security features can bridge the gap between dependence on RFID technology and the desire to protect, identify, and verify an original.

New developments in authentication features such as optically variable technology (OVT) and latent images have been drawing attention in the pharmaceutical industry. Popular uses of this technology include holographic foil, color-shifting ink, or phantom messages. These technologies can be used on any printed

For pharmaceutical packaging, covert authentication features can support RFID. Authentication words, images, or codes can be covertly incorporated into a full-color package. These codes can only be revealed with the use of an inexpensive, handheld plastic lens. (Copies of the package, however, would not show the hidden image when viewed with the lens.) When the reader is placed on the area, the image or code is revealed, authenticating the package is genuine. It can even match the serial number encoded on the RFID tag or in a bar code.

Copy-deterrent features can also be embedded into the graphics of a package that reveal hidden words or messages, such as “unauthorized copy” or “void” when the package is copied or scanned and others produce severely distorted copies or scans.

Each of these anticopy and authentication technologies provides additional assurance that an item of value is authentic. RFID is an incredible technology, but it is only one tool in the toolbox for creating and maintaining a secure drug supply chain.

Used in tandem with RFID as part of an overall packaging security strategy, anticopy and authentication technology has the potential to stop the majority of counterfeiting.

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